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Deuteronomy 1


Book of Deuteronomy Chapter One
Commentary by Pastor Ron Beckham


God Will Remind Us

Verses 1-4: "These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel and Laban and Hazeroth and Dizahab. 2 It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea. 3 In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that the Lord had commanded him to give to them, 4 after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and Edrei." The word "Deuteronomy" is from the title given in 200 BC by 72 Jewish scholars in Egypt when they translated this book from Hebrew into Greek, calling it "To Deuteronomion Touto" (This Second Law). The original Hebrew title was "Mishneh Haddebharim" (The Words) taken from "the words" in Verse 1. It was also called "Mishneh Hattorah" (repetition of the Law). Deuteronomy contains 40 references that the 120-year old Moses wrote this Book, along with similar testimony in the other Books of the Law, and many compelling references to his authorship are found in both the Old and New Testaments. Of special interest are Matthew 19:7-9 and Mark 7:10, where Jesus quoted Deuteronomy and directly attributed its authorship to Moses. The 40-year wandering of Israel within the wilderness places of these verses was now over, suggesting the date for the writing of this Book was 1405 BC. Joshua, Moses' long-time secretary-assistant, would have added the obituary of his mentor, recorded in Chapter 34. The events in Deuteronomy took place within a period of one month, at a time when Israel was poised to attack the land of Canaan. The people were being reminded of events in the past and He will remind us also—we will find new faith as we prayerfully consider the failures and successes of the past.

The Lord through Moses was reminding this people of His will for them, preparing them for the mission that was right before the nation, beginning in Verses 5-8: "Across the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to expound this law, saying, 6 'The Lord our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. 7 Turn and set your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites, and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negev and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. 8 See, I have placed the land before you; go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to them and their descendants after them.'" We can imagine Joshua next to Moses, writing the words down as fast as he could, just as Moses uttered them. Moses was the author. Joshua was his scribe. Israel never captured all of the lands and tribes named in these verses, but here the Lord's will for the nation can be seen. It's a reminder that God has has a high calling for each one of His people. We may not achieve all the goals He intends for us, but blessedly, through His grace, He keeps enabling and sending us anyway, for our good and His glory.

Verses 9-13: "I spoke to you at that time, saying, 'I am not able to bear the burden of you alone. 10 The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are this day like the stars of heaven in number. 11 May the Lord, the God of your fathers, increase you a thousand-fold more than you are and bless you, just as He has promised you! 12 How can I alone bear the load and burden of you and your strife? 13 Choose wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads.'" Isn't it wonderful that Moses, in spite of his high position, recognized his limitations and his need of both the Lord and the people around him. Joshua had observed the character of Moses for decades and he said about the man: "Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3). True humility comes to the person who meets the Lord and is touched by the Holy Spirit, revealing the Lord to us and what we really are. Paul, in places like 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, commented on the condition of believers, stating, "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things... to shame the things which are mighty... that no flesh should glory in His presence." Humanity is not worthy of His grace, but God was about to increase Israel, blessing His people, including people like you and me. His faithful ones become useful for He makes it so.

Verses 14-18: "You answered me and said, ‘The thing which you have said to do is good.’ 15 So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and appointed them heads over you, leaders of thousands and of hundreds, of fifties and of tens, and officers for your tribes. 16 Then I charged your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen, and judge righteously between a man and his fellow countryman, or the alien who is with him. 17 You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ 18 I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do." This agreement between Moses and the leaders of Israel's tribes can be seen in Exodus 18, which came from a suggestion which no doubt was from the Lord, but the idea was presented to Moses through his father-in-law. A great burden was lifted from Moses as he received the help of people around him. And in the moment of these verses, the nation was reminded that it is good to be honest in judgment, granting justice to the poor and rich alike. We are to be fair and just, not operating out of fear of what others might think.

Verses 19-24: "Then we set out from Horeb, and went through all that great and terrible wilderness which you saw on the way to the hill country of the Amorites, just as the Lord our God had commanded us; and we came to Kadesh-barnea. 20 I said to you, ‘You have come to the hill country of the Amorites which the Lord our God is about to give us. 21 See, the Lord your God has placed the land before you; go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear or be dismayed. 22 Then all of you approached me and said, ‘Let us send men before us, that they may search out the land for us, and bring back to us word of the way by which we should go up and the cities which we shall enter. 23 The thing pleased me and I took twelve of your men, one man for each tribe. 24 They turned and went up into the hill country, and came to the valley of Eshcol and spied it out.’" Horeb is Mount Sinai and the words of these verses refer back to Numbers Chapter 13. Just under forty years before the moment of these verses, the Lord was ready to send the armies of Israel into the promised land, but the people were afraid to the extent that they became rebellious and wouldn't go. In the same way, God has opened doors for every one of us that many, out of fear, have refused to enter. Now, at this point in Deuteronomy, Israel was once again being offered the land of Canaan and it was almost time for them to go. Since the chief purpose of our lives is to faithfully receive and respond to God's call, it's important to say "yes." and then do it. Our refusal can lead to lives of drudgery and regret. We are to LEARN from what has happened in the past.

That's how it was for Israel, as seen here in Verses 25-28, Moses' recollection of what happened 40-years before: "Then they took some of the fruit of the land in their hands and brought it down to us; and they brought us back a report and said, ‘It is a good land which the Lord our God is about to give us.’ 26 Yet you were not willing to go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God; 27 and you grumbled in your tents and said, ‘Because the Lord hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us. 28 Where can we go up? Our brethren have made our hearts melt, saying, 'The people are bigger and taller than we; the cities are large and fortified to heaven. And besides, we saw the sons of the Anakim there.'" It's quite common for people to resist the call of God. The obstacles may seem large, like many of the people of Canaan were, and the "cities" we are called to conquer may seem impenetrable. But God is larger, more capable, stronger and wiser than any obstacle we might face. And best of all, when He calls we will not go alone, for He is with us in the battles of life. Trust Him—He enables His faithful ones.

Verses 29-33: "Then I said to you, ‘Do not be shocked, nor fear them. 30 The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place. 32 But for all this, you did not trust the Lord your God, 33 who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go.'" There were presently only three surviving men, Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, from the time of Numbers 14, when God's call to enter the land was announced to the nation. And yet ALL the younger ones who listened at the time of THESE verses were addressed as though they had been present at the time of Numbers 14. Note that God indeed does regard us as individuals, but He also sees us as part of our nation, our church, our place of employment, and whatever else we may be associated with. He views us individually and corporately. Who we associate with and what our allegiances are, will affect God's treatment of us. Notice in Verse 32 that the Lord's chief concern was that they "did not trust the Lord your God." And that is His concern for us all—we have standing with God when we have faith, trusting Him for our very lives—the way to please Him is through faith in the Lord.

The idea continues into Verses 34-38: "Then the Lord heard the sound of your words, and He was angry and took an oath, saying, 35 ‘Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers, 36 except Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and to his sons I will give the land on which he has set foot, because he has followed the Lord fully.’ 37 The Lord was angry with me also on your account, saying, ‘Not even you shall enter there.' 38 Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter there; encourage him, for he will cause Israel to inherit it." In Numbers 13, we see that Caleb and Joshua were the only two out of the spies sent into Canaan who gave a good report. All the spies agreed that Canaan was a fertile, desirable land, perfect for Israel, except it was also noted that the place was full of well-armed, large soldiers, inside of well-fortified walled cities that seemed impossible to conquer. Unbelief spread from the faithless spies and corrupted a whole nation. So a generation would perish in the desert, except for Caleb and Joshua who still lived and stood with Moses at the moment. These were men who had learned from the past that our Lord is faithful—we can and should trust Him.

Verses 39-40: "Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it. 40 But as for you, turn around and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea.’" Forty years before this time, the leaders and people of Israel expressed concern that their children would suffer and perhaps die if Israel invaded Canaan. It was just an excuse because God was with that nation and He loves children more than we can imagine. And now, forty years later, the faithless parents were gone, but those very children were about to enter the land and complete the mission their predecessors failed to accomplish. All were reminded, in this Book of Instruction called Deuteronomy, that to have faith in the Lord is the beginning of life.

Verses 41-46: "Then you said to me, ‘We have sinned against the Lord; we will indeed go up and fight, just as the Lord our God commanded us.’ And every man of you girded on his weapons of war, and regarded it as easy to go up into the hill country. 42 And the Lord said to me, ‘Say to them, 'Do not go up nor fight, for I am not among you; otherwise you will be defeated before your enemies.' 43 So I spoke to you, but you would not listen. Instead you rebelled against the command of the Lord, and acted presumptuously and went up into the hill country. 44 The Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you as bees do, and crushed you from Seir to Hormah. 45 Then you returned and wept before the Lord; but the Lord did not listen to your voice nor give ear to you. 46 So you remained in Kadesh many days, the days that you spent there." All Scripture is important and a key life lesson is contained within these verses. The Lord had told Israel, four decades ago, to enter the land of Canaan. The people were afraid and did not go. And subsequently they decided to go and fight anyway even though the Lord said through Moses, NO, "do not go up nor fight, for I am not among you." And that's what we need to learn. When the Lord says, "Go," then it's good to pray, but also to act, for He is with you. And when He says, "NO, don't go," pray, and then stay where you are. If you go anyway, there's gonna' be trouble.

Father, You have given us the capacity for faith in the Lord, and You continually remind us of our need to trust in You. When we say "Yes" to You, we are strong because You are with us. Thank You, Lord, for calling us and bringing Your will to pass in our lives. Forgive us, please, for the times we were afraid and did not go, and for doing solmething anyway when it was wrong. We surrender, Lord. We trust in You and are forgiven in Christ. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
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